Dear Ms. Whitson,
Re: Response to "Human Rights Watch" Organization's Request for Information concerning the Publication of a Report on the Arrest of Minors in the West Bank and the Eastern Neighborhoods of Jerusalem
Please find below our response to your request:
To date, the above mentioned Draft report itself has not been provided to us for review, nor has it been transferred for the review of the other relevant authorities. On these grounds it is difficult for us to adhere to your request for information. More specifically, your request relates to six cases in which minors were allegedly illegally investigated. Regrettably, you did not provide any relevant details that would make it possible to identify the cases in question.
These six cases were noted in your request for information, yet because of the paucity of details you provide it has hindered the authorities' ability to adequately follow up these alleged incidents in any substantive manner. This takes time and resources away from improving the enforcement situation (both in relation to activities undertaken by enforcement authorities and as part of the judicial process) and may in fact distort and distract from it.
Allegations against the Law Enforcement Authorities
Notwithstanding the limitations in examining the six alleged cases due to lack of information, we have made efforts to respond to your allegations in a general manner.
The Israeli Police
In recent years, an inter-ministerial team, made up of the Israel Police, the Israel Defense Force – including the Office of the Legal Advisor for the Area of Judea and Samaria and the Judea and Samaria Prosecutor's Office, Israel's Security Agency, the Israel's Prisons Service and the Ministries of Social Affairs and Social Services and Justice, and headed by Deputy Attorney General (Criminal Law) has been working together to promote the rights of minors in the West Bank. The rights of minors is taken very seriously by Israel and it is promoted and protected to the extent possible while at the same time taking into account the security situation in the West Bank.
As part of this initiative, new provisions were added to the relevant military commander's orders, regulating the treatment of minors in the West Bank, and addressing their rights during legal proceedings. Among other things, significant developments include: the age of minority was raised from 16 to18, a military juvenile court was established, periods of detention for minors were shortened, an obligation to inform parents of the investigation of a minor was set, and the right to consult a lawyer prior to investigation was enshrined.
Other relevant developments that demonstrate our attempt to balance promoting the rights of minors in the West Bank while responding the security concerns include:
Parents' presence in an investigation - The military commander's order does not require the presence of a parent in an investigation of a minor suspected in a security offence – as is the case regarding Israeli youth suspected of a security offence. The Judea and Samaria Police District allows parents to be present during the investigation of a minor suspected of criminal offenses. Such investigations operate in accordance with the exceptions listed in the Youth Law.
Audio-visual documentation of investigations of minors and investigations in the language of the minor - the Criminal Procedure Law (Interrogation of Suspects) 5762 -2002 (hereinafter: "the Interrogation of Suspects Law"), establishes the obligation to document an investigation being conducted into offences punishable by ten years imprisonment or more. The law further states that an investigation that is not documented in the language in which it was conducted must be documented by audio or visual recording. Section 17 of the Law provides a temporary order, according to which, this obligation to document does not apply to an investigation of a suspect in a security offence. This temporary order is currently valid until July 4, 2015. On September 10, 2014, a similar military commander's order, which is also applicable in the West Bank, was amended, and among other things the issue of audio-visual documentation of investigations of minors in the West Bank was addressed. This amendment is also temporary order for a period of one year that requires extension. According to Judea and Samaria Police District, an investigation of a minor who speaks Arabic is conducted by an Arabic-speaking investigator. In the circumstances that the investigator cannot document the investigation in written Arabic, he/she must document the investigation by audio or video recording, in accordance with the applicable military order on the matter, in a manner comparable to the documenting of investigations in Israel. In case there is a need to conduct an investigation outside the police station, the documentation will be carried out in a language which the minor understands unless the investigator is unable to do so. In such case the investigation's documentation will be translated before the minor in writing in a language s/he understands.
Prohibition of night investigation - In order to facilitate, to the extent possible, the investigation of minors during the day, efforts are made by the IDF to carry out the arrests as much as possible in the early morning hours. If there is no need for initiated arrest or detention of minors by the security forces, to the extent possible, investigations of minors are conducted during the day. This issue is also discussed in the framework of the interministerial team in order to examine whether it is necessary to amend military commander's order to further promote compliance on this matter.
Investigation of a minor by a youth investigator – The inter-ministerial team decided that this issue will be regulated by an internal guideline. Accordingly, the investigative officer in the Judea and Samaria Police District issued a directive that instructs, as rule, minors are to be investigated by an investigator who took part in youth investigation training (qualified investigator). In cases where there is no qualified investigator at the relevant police unit, and there is a necessity to carry out the investigation urgently, the youth officer or the investigations officer is authorized to approve of an investigation of a minor by another investigator.
These measures and changes described above are aimed to protect the rights of minors during investigations and reflect serious efforts undertaken by Israel to improve the situation in relation to the rights of minors in the West Bank. Eastern Neighborhoods of Jerusalem – the Youth Law is applied by the Police in the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
Assaf Radzyner, Adv.
Cc: Adv. Hila Tene-Gilad - Here